Michigan’s Steele Wins $155k on HPT
Mount Pleasant, MI (May 20, 2013) Just before play began Monday at Heartland Poker Tour’s nationally-televised Final Table, 37-year-old Pat Steele said he was “going to have a lot of fun here.” That he did. He had already gotten through all but eight players in the field of 462 at Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. The good times continued as he found himself playing heads up for $155,636. The heads-up match started with essentially dead even chip stacks but it was all Steele from there. When Tom Medina moved all-in pre-flop with jack-nine against Steele’s ace-seven, Steele learned a whole new meaning of “fun.” His cards held up making him HPT’s latest champion and $155k richer.
Medina, a 23-year-old professional player from Jackson, Michigan, had a good payday too. The weekend of play earned him $96,031 and earned HPT a new fan. “HPT has been great,” he said, “They probably have one of the best structures out there for poker tours.”
The structure is one of many upgrades to HPT since their last visit to Soaring Eagle in 2011 and the players approved. The Main Event field was 20% bigger than the same event two years ago. Familiar faces filled the spacious event center including “Cowboy” Mike Harris, Dash Dudley, and Craig Casino, none of whom cashed despite deep runs. Stan Jablonski, Bruce Swart, and Elliot Hedben all came close to getting back in front of HPT’s cameras but walked away with a few thousand dollars instead.
Late in day two, past champ Eric Stocz cheered on his dad next to Jerry Gumila who cheered on his son. In the end, Donald Stocz and Jerrick Gumila went out in 29th and 28th place respectively, each collecting $4,040.
Two world champions were in the field: HPT Player of the Year Greg “FossilMan” Raymer and Michigan native Joe Cada. Cada’s 2009 WSOP runner-up, Darvin Moon, made his return to Soaring Eagle but didn’t see Day Two. Raymer also busted on Day One while Cada coasted to fourth place for $43,710.
Cada fought hard all day, riding a roller coaster with big dips from the top of the counts to the bottom. “Winning the HPT title would mean a lot,” the 25-year-old Michigan native said, “You play a tournament to win.” He met his demise when he moved all-in with king-queen on the turn while the eventual champ had him beat with two pair.
Cada tangled with Rudy Ballard of Rochester Hills, Michigan several times at the Final Table with Ballard getting the better of Cada each time. It was finally Cada's turn when he got Ballard all-in holding pocket deuces against his ace-ten. A ten on the flop sent Ballard out in sixth place for $25,167, a significant return on his $360 investment. “My HPT experience so far has been great” said the 57-year-old who works for General Motors, “I like the structure and you couldn’t ask for more-friendly people.”
Attorney Mark Davis, 44, from Toledo, Ohio also got into the Main Event through an inexpensive qualifier. At the Final Table, he was blessed with pocket queens twice and cursed with them once. The ladies doubled him up two times then turned on him when he was all-in against ace-queen. An ace on the turn for Adam Bacon eliminated Davis in seventh place for $21,789. Bacon himself went out holding queen-nine against Steele’s ace-king. The 28-year-old lab tech from Bryan, Ohio collected $32,425 for his fifth place finish.
Other than the queens, the only woman at the table was Penelope Banhidy from Cleveland, Ohio. Monday’s taping was her second televised HPT Final Table in seven months. Her third place finish for $62,917 beats her fifth-place finish in St Louis last fall. “The lights and cameras…all of that affects you,” said the retiree. “You think about what your friends will think of your play when it gets on TV.” Banhidy may be back in the hot seat again soon. She plans to use her winnings to play more tournaments.
Both Sai Mudduluru and Phung Ngo also plan to play more poker with their prize money. Mudduluru, a 30-year-old program analyst from Lansing, Michigan finished in eighth place for $17,882. Ngo, 36, a mechanical engineer from Commerce Township, Michigan, has $14,570 to reinvest from his ninth-place finish. Their next chance to play a nationally-televised HPT event is this weekend at Route 66 Casino & Hotel in Albuquerque.